That’s All You Got? What’s Really a Perk and What’s a Stretch?

Jason Pankow Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Jason Pankow

There is a reason I write for FOT and not for Benefits Buzz.  Personally…I find benefits to be ridiculously boring.  I’m glad I have them and God bless the people that secure them for me.  But, you will never find me sitting with the Benefits department.

However, I was recently discussing with someone what should be considered an honest to goodnessPerks “perk” and what is stretching it a bit in order to find something that makes you sound better.

For example…I once talked to a company that listed “Free Parking” as one of their benefits.  Now, if this company were located in downtown Seattle or another urban location, that perk might be appealing.  But, this company wasn’t located downtown.  It was located in Auburn, Washington, about 20 minutes South of Seattle…population just under 50,000.  There are no parking problems and there are no paid parking spaces or parking lots.  All parking is free, not just the on-site parking.

There is no doubt that benefits are a big part of the compensation package and should be discussed when rolling out the offer.  Key benefits are medical, 401k, and time off.  Here are some real benefits I have seen that I feel are better left off of the pitch:

Free Parking – I mentioned this earlier, but personally, I think if an employer isn’t either letting you park for free or offering you some kind of parking stipend, this should count against them more than Free Parking should count for them.

Free Soda –  My company will often list this one, as well.  While I love my free soda benefit and I would miss it if it were gone, I’m not weighing this as a reason to take or decline a job offer.  Plus…it rots your teeth, so don’t forget to plug the dental plan.

Free Coffee – Okay, really?

Birthday Celebrations – Hopefully this company has a Party Planning Committee.

Companies often do have benefits that are unique or “above and beyond.”  Free coffee is not one of them, but here are some I have seen that are:

Tuition Assistance – Many people are interested in furthering their education and not all companies assist with this.  If yours does, sell it.

Matching Gifts – Socially conscious people love to know that any contribution they make is doubled by the company.  Twice the effect without any further hit to your time or pocketbook.

Paid Parental Leave – The government mandates unpaid time off.  If your company wants to pay someone to make babies, you should flaunt that.

If you are stretching for things to list on your website or flier, and you decide to add things like Halloween Party or your Birthday Off, I think it’s time to loop in your favorite benefits person to start looking for some new perks.  While I think all of these are hunky-dory, if I am hearing them in an offer or a sales pitch, my immediate thought is, “That’s all you’ve got?”  It’s great that you offer these benefits.  But, if you need to use them in order to make the close, it’s time to improve your perks.